It's not easy to be in the coffee-shop game these days. Craft coffee isn't cheap, and if you don't have something else with decent margins to sell alongside it, you could be in big trouble.
This has led many a business-minded person to create their coffee program in tandem with a restaurant, bar or boutique. However if you are Shannon Neffendorf, owner of Davis Street Espresso (819 W Davis Street), then you double down on the coffee, which you conveniently roast in the same space under the name Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters. Having a roasting company as his primary business gives Neffendorf some freedom to play with his idea of the ideal coffee shop. What he created is a stripped down concept where the coffee is the heart of everything they do, and it works because the coffee is good. Really good.
On New Year's Day I arrived at Davis Street Espresso somewhat bright and early because I'd rather start off 2014 with good coffee than the impending doom of a juice cleanse or whatever it is that other people do. Plus there was a bonus that day: free donuts.
I ordered an Americano made with OCCR's Hidden City Espresso. If a regular cup of coffee is more your thing you can order a cup made in their Steampunk, with the usual offerings being the Rosemont Blend and a seasonal rotator. Regular mornings at Davis Street also include a limited number of pastries, like chocolate croissants from Rush Patisserie and churros and donuts from Vera's Bakery.
It's important to know that no one is in a hurry here. It's not that they're lazy -- quite the opposite, actually -- but the baristas are going to take the right amount of time to make your drink and are undeterred by whatever ants have made their home in your pants. No one that works there ever seems stressed, and you should take that as an invitation to not be stressed either.
All the fuss will be worth it, too, if my Americano was any indication. They are serving the best coffee in town, these baristas: Not only are the beans are well sourced, roasted with love and served with skill, but the setting and people make it a one-of-a-kind gem not to be missed.
The space is an extension of the simple, thoughtful menu. Wooden booths and walls provide an intimate setting for meeting up with friends or making new ones. If you live, work or spend time in Oak Cliff, odds are you will run into someone you know. On this morning there was Johnny Cash playing on the record player. Music is a new addition to the shop, but as with all things around there, they added it their way. Minimal distractions mean greater opportunities to interact with other humans, which is a pastime from the '30s or something.
If small children bother you, Davis Street Espresso is not for you. There are always adorably wild children with their graphic designing/wedding photographing/artisanal soap making/wood-whittling parents in the kid's area in the back. Guys with mustaches, slightly worn work boots, and flannel. Petite ladies with effortlessly tousled hair, an oversized tunic, and the faint smell of essential oils. Everyone looks like the fell out of a Kinfolk magazine, and they all have kids in tow.
It's worth noting that Davis Street Espresso has very particular hours: During the week they close at 11 a.m., and on Saturdays you have to pack your things up at 2. They're closed Sunday and Monday. There are some other quirks as well that the average coffee shop goer might not expect. Based on multiple opportunities to eavesdrop on new customers, I have created a handy FAQ to help with your first visit:
1. Can I get my drink to-go? Only if you brought your own mug or buy one of theirs. No paper cups to be found. 2. Can I have a non-fat latte? No, currently they only serve organic whole milk. 3. Can I have a soy cappuccino, please? NO, CURRENTLY THEY ONLY SERVE ORGANIC WHOLE MILK. (Sometimes the baristas have to say this several times in a row. They are always very nice about it. I would just get a shirt made.) 4. Can I have a vanilla latte? No, currently they only serve sugar cubes for your sweetening enjoyment. Also no Splenda and the like. 5. What is the wi-fi password? There is no wi-fi. Neffendorf is a Luddite. Plus they aren't open long enough for you to set up a remote office anyway. Consider reading a book or talking with a friend.
If you can get past the quirks, or better yet embrace them, then you might decide to make Davis Street Espresso a regular thing in your life. If so, I'll see you there.
This coffee shop is good for: - journaling (everyone is doing it, though why I have no idea) - baby holding - running into friends - picking up home brewing supplies - warm neighborhood fuzzies